FLOWERY BRANCH, GA –With the third game of the preseason looming on Friday night, the Falcons are beginning to work toward a regular season feel to their weekly schedule.
The starters are set to play into the second half against the Miami Dolphins, and head coach Mike Smith and his staff are putting a heightened emphasis on game planning for this week's matchup.
Smith called Tuesday's practice the biggest day of the week in terms of the game plan installation. One of the most significant signs of the end of training camp is the preseason's third week preparation for the opposing team's playmakers. Members of the Falcons were assuming the roles of players like wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Ricky Williams as the team practiced on Tuesday.
Because games in the exhibition season don't count toward the regular season won-loss record, teams can afford to use that period to work out the kinks and prepare for the season when everything matters. Not only are players trying to win jobs, but the coaching staff is using the period to get a feel for the succession of days leading up to the game day.
"We're working through the process and the procedure of how we are going to put our game plan in," Smith said Tuesday.
Cornering the market:The Falcons have spent considerable time in the last few seasons building a roster of cornerbacks that has become a potential strength of the team and a position of significant depth.
Friday's matchup with the Dolphins will potentially feature the return to the lineup of the two current starters at cornerback on Atlanta's depth chart. Offseason free-agent acquisition Dunta Robinson, who has been hampered with a hamstring injury, and Brent Grimes, who missed last week with a groin injury, are both game-time decisions, according to Smith, but have practiced with the team since Saturday.
Additionally, veteran Brian Williams has recently returned to practice and is another player anticipated to participate Friday.
"Brian has been practicing full-go only once a day during training camp the last seven or eight practices," Smith said Tuesday. "So, we're giving him limited snaps right now and we're hoping that nothing flares up and he'll be able to participate in the game on Friday."
A third-round selection in 2009, Chris Owens impressed the coaches last season with his late-season play and has had a strong camp in his second year.
In addition to providing solid coverage in the passing game, Owens is a hard hitter who can apply that tenacity at a high level in Atlanta's run defense. With the return of Robinson to the practice lineup, Owens has been working out of the nickel cornerback position, allowing Smith and his staff to get a look at the corner's use in a different way within the defense.
"We're trying to get Chris some snaps and reps at the nickel position to give us guys that are cross-trained," Smith said. "That would actually give us four guys that could possibly play nickel. I think anytime you have guys that are available to play multiple positions, I think you put yourself in a better situation once the seasons arises because you never know who's going to be in or who's going to be out from one week to the next."
New man in town:As every NFL player knows, when a call comes through from an NFL team, you always answer it.
Offensive lineman Mark Ortmann was a free agent Monday when he had breakfast. By the time he was having dinner, he no longer had that status.
The undrafted rookie lineman from Michigan got a call from the Falcons around 10:30 a.m. Monday and was on a plane before 1 p.m. on his way to Atlanta. After a workout that afternoon, he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons that evening.
After spending time with the Carolina Panthers earlier in the offseason and a workout with the New England Patriots, Ortmann is happy to be joining a youthful Falcons team.
"It's really exciting," Ortmann said Tuesday. "It seems that it's a fairly young team. There's a lot of energy and a lot of upbeat people wanting to prove themselves."
With Monday's trade of lineman Quinn Ojinnaka, the need for an additional lineman arose and Ortmann was the best available in the eyes of the Falcons.